The_Many_Faces_of_Solar_Power by georgetitan

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									Title:
The Many Faces of Solar Power

Word Count:
778

Summary:
Living in Nevada, the sun is an almost constant companion. This gives
Nevadans a unique opportunity to use solar radiation powers for good. In
April, a tour of southern Nevada homes shed some light on the subject of
solar powered homes. Hosted by the American Solar Energy Society, this
Nevada branch of the National Solar Tour explored homes that used both
passive and active solar power, thermal hot water systems, and other
environmentally features. However, unless you're a green technologies exp


Keywords:
Solar Power, Alternate Energy Sources, American Solar Energy Society,
National Solar Tour, Environment, Passive Solar Homes


Article Body:
Living in Nevada, the sun is an almost constant companion. This gives
Nevadans a unique opportunity to use solar radiation powers for good. In
April, a tour of southern Nevada homes shed some light on the subject of
solar powered homes. Hosted by the American Solar Energy Society, this
Nevada branch of the National Solar Tour explored homes that used both
passive and active solar power, thermal hot water systems, and other
environmentally features. However, unless you're a green technologies
expert, or took the tour, you may not know the difference between passive
and active solar, or how thermal hot water is different than average. Let
me help you understand!

Active solar technology is the one that most people may be familiar with.
It involves having a solar panel that collects the sun's energy and
converts it into electricity. These have a battery where energy is
stored, so electricity can still be used at night, and, to a certain
extent, on cloudy days. Solar panels are an excellent way to make
electricity, especially in remote areas. While they are moderately costly
to set up, and do require some maintenance, they provide reliable and
free electricity, even in climates far less sunny than Nevada's.

Passive solar technologies are far older than active ones, and involve
utilizing the natural heat and light the sun creates, without converting
it in any other way. Have you ever noticed that after a long, hot day,
south-facing rocks, pavement or brick and adobe buildings will radiate
warmth? They have spent the day passively collecting solar energy, and
are releasing it. Some materials are better at absorbing and storing that
heat energy than others. For example, wood insulates, meaning it will
block temperatures, whereas stone will absorb and release temperatures.
Homes that are built to take advantage of passive solar are often
constructed of brick, adobe or concrete. Cob is another passive-solar-
friendly and ancient building material that is going through a revival of
sorts. It is made of sand, clay and straw, similar ingredients as adobe,
but adobe is baked into bricks and stacked, whereas cob structures are
free-formed while the material is wet. Passive solar homes usually have a
lot of windows lining their south walls, and less so their east and west
walls, with little to no windows on the colder north sides. These windows
do two things. First, they provide natural light inside the home, one
aspect of passive solar. Second, they allow heat to come into the home.
If the home has a stone tile floor and even walls, that tile will absorb
the heat, releasing it later when the outside temperature drops.

Passive solar homes can be designed to be cool in summer while using the
sun to warm them in winter. For example, if shutters are closed during
summer months, the home will remain much cooler. Also, the height and
angle of overhang can be considered to maximize the windows exposure to
low winter sun, but minimize exposure to the high summer sun.
Alternatively, I saw an interesting example of someone planting deciduous
trees on the south side of their home. In the winter, the trees had no
leaves and so let in a lot of light and heat. In the summer, their thick
greenery provided shade that kept the house cool.

So that is the major difference between active and passive solar
technologies. Since passive solar is essentially free, it would be wise
for any architect or home designer to take it into consideration when
building new homes. Well designed passive solar homes can greatly reduce
their electrical energy needs. And while active solar is brilliant
technology, it still takes many resources to create. Plus, it may be
superfluous in an area with an existing electrical source.

As for thermal water heating, it too is a very simple concept. Home made
thermal water heaters can be as simple as an outdoor water tank painted
black, but that's a little crude for most tastes. However, there are a
variety of styles out there. Some have panels that are metal painted
black and enclosed with glass, with copper pipes filled with water
running through them. This water will heat, and is then pushed by gravity
into an insulated storage tank. Some solar water heaters use a similar
set-up but with tubes filled with anti-freeze that are then hooked up to
a heat transfer loop, where water in a storage tank is heated. Whatever
system you use, thermal water heating is surprisingly affective.

There are a lot of ways to take advantage of the sun and use less
electricity. Check out next year's National Solar Tour to see them for
yourself.

								
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